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The world risks becoming overly dependent on China as the overwhelming supplier of solar cells as it faces its first real global energy crisis, says International Energy Agency chief Dr Fatih Birol , at an energy conference in Sydney organized by the Australian government with the IEA.

He said that as solar power becomes more crucial to the world, 80% of solar cells are produced by China and by 2025 that figure is expected to rise to 95%.

Dr Fatih Birol speaks at the Sydney Energy Forum on Tuesday.Credit:oscar colman

“For the whole world to rely on one country for a technology that we all need, we have to think from an energy security perspective,” he said.

” A province [in China] is responsible for approximately 40% of global production and two factories for approximately 20%. What happens if there is a fire? »

Echoing Birol’s concern, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told the audience that the rapid expansion of renewable energy is reducing growing geopolitical risks.

“No country has ever been held hostage to gain access to the wind. No country has ever been held hostage to the sun. They have never been militarized and neither will they be.

“We want to make sure that we are not under the thumb of peto-dictators… [or] the thumb of those who wish to strategically control aspects of the supply chain.

Birol said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine combined with the impact of COVID had caused the first truly global energy crisis, with prices soaring from “Sri Lanka to Albania, from Albania to Argentina to sub-Saharan Africa”.

He said the situation was likely to get worse before it gets better and Europe faced a tough winter ahead.

But he said the crisis was likely to be a turning point in the history of energy use on earth.

He noted that the oil crisis of the 1970s accelerated the development of nuclear power and fuel-efficient vehicles. This crisis was deeper, he said, because it was biting as climate change hit the world and hit the prices of gas and coal as well as oil.

But he added that, unlike the 1970s, cheap alternatives to fossil fuels existed and would now be rapidly adopted.

Solar, wind and hydrogen solutions were emerging rapidly as the business case for new fossil fuel investments grew, he said.

Dr Birol said that in the short term, the world should quickly replace Russian gas with nuclear power, energy efficiency and the methane that was already leaking from existing gas fields.

He said opening new gas fields would not solve the immediate problem as they would take years to develop and could be redundant upon delivery.


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